Indigenous governor murdered in Cauca, Colombia
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Indigenous governor murdered in Cauca, Colombia

An indigenous Yanacona governor has been murdered in Colombia’s south-western department of Cauca in what native authorities believed was a targeted attack.

Willer Alexánder Oimé Alarcón, Governor of the Indigenous Resguardo Río Blanco – Resguardo is an indigenous reserve – in the municipality of Sotará, was shot and killed last Wednesday (March 2) in the city of Popayán, the capital of Cauca.

Reports by national press state that 31-year-old Oimé Alarcón was shot several times by two men on a motorbike. He was taken to the hospital Susana López de Valencia, where he later died.

“He did not meddle with anyone,”

Last Friday, March 4, indigenous communities march through the streets of Popayán with Oimé Alarcón’s coffin. Yuli Palechor, who is from Sotará and who participated in the march, told El Pais: “It’s an injustice what they did, he did not meddle with anyone, on the contrary, he was always willing to work for the welfare of his people, the Yanaconas. He fought against multinationals who want to finish us and our culture. He would find a remedy whenever a fellow brother was in need.”

According to an article by TeleSUR, Colonel Pedro Rodelo Asfora, of the Popayán Metropolitan Police, has announced there is a reward of 10 million pesos (3,032 dollars) for anyone who provides information leading to the perpetrators’ identification.  The Colonel also said that while he did not believe the murder was committed as part of a robbery, he is considering all possibilities.

Urgent investigation

The Regional Indian Council of Cauca (CRIC) has issued a statement on its website stating they do not believe that Oimé Alarcón was murdered during a mugging, as has been reported by some of the country’s media organizations.  CRIC say Oimé Alarcón’s belongings were found near the site of the attack and that, according to eye witness reports, there was no struggle, indicating it could not have been an attempted robbery.

“We urgently call on the Attorney General’s Office, Attorney Ombudsman, and other national bodies and international human rights defenders to diligently investigate this murder, to find the perpetrators and punish them, and to end the hundreds of killings of indigenous people in Cauca, which is being done with impunity.”

CRIC believes that the young governor was murdered because he was working in defense of Yanacona territory in relation to issues of mining and water in his community.

Less than a month ago, 22-year-old Janer Sebastián Corpués, a resident of Resguardo Canoas in northern Cauca, was killed. Corpués was murdered in his home on February 21. According to his family, he had received numerous death threats. On February 29, Nini Jhoana Daza, Governor of the Concepción Indigenous Resguardo, who has also received ongoing death threats from paramilitaries, survived an attack with explosives.

Indigenous people in Cauca have long been affected by violence as a result of  the internal armed conflict involving the FARC, the Colombian army, and paramilitaries.  Many indigenous people, especially leaders, have been killed.

Death threats

In April 2015, Amnesty International issued an Urgent Action following the death of three indigenous men in northern Cauca. Mario Germán Valencia Vallejo, Belisario Trochez Ordóñez and Cristián David Trochez were forced into a lorry,  and their bodies were found later the same day. All three men had been shot in the head.  Two other men, Berney Trochez and Wilson Trochez, went missing and are believed to have been forcible disappeared.

According to Amnesty International, the community of Cerro Tijeras – where the men were from – had received numerous death threats over the years from paramilitaries.   The death threats have been made against indigenous communities that are occupying areas which they claim is their ancestral land. These communities have been demanding that the Colombian government grant them titles for land in northern Cauca as part of a reparation agreement to redress serious human rights abuses.

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